32-mile-wide ‘No Drone Zone’ surrounds Super Bowl 50 site on Sunday

The entrance to Levi's Stadium is decorated with images of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, left, and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in Santa Clara, Calif.

The entrance to Levi’s Stadium is decorated with images of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, left, and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in Santa Clara, Calif.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
Share via

Outside of passes from two of the NFL’s biggest playmakers, not much else should be flying around Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Superbowl Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Starting at 2 p.m. and lasting until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, the FAA has issued a temporary flight restriction for most aircraft -- including drones -- in a 32-mile radius around the stadium south of San Francisco.

Long gone are the days when aerial interruptions were limited to folks such as parachutist James Miller, who in 1993 interrupted a heavyweight championship fight in Las Vegas then landed on the roof of Buckingham Palace months later.


These days, drones are the ones drawing fans’ ire. In September, a drone buzzing over a match in the U.S. Open tennis tournament crashed into an empty section of seats. Less than a week later, a drone crashed at a University of Kentucky football game.

The FAA has taken its message to social media. On Wednesday, it tweeted a public service announcement, saying to “bring your facepaint, bring your team spirit, but leave your drone at home.”

See more of our top stories on Facebook >>

Anyone who violates the restriction may be detained by law enforcement and given a civil penalty from the FAA, officials said. The government can also pursue criminal charges in some circumstances, the agency said.

Individuals could receive a $1,000 fine, and a business fine could be up to $27,500, the FAA said.


Deadly force is permitted against airborne aircraft determined to pose an imminent threat -- but that would not apply to drone operators, the FAA said.

“With so many drones being sold for recreational use, we want to do everything we can to get the word out that the game is a No Drone Zone,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement. “We’re working closely with our safety and security partners to spread this message as widely as possible.”

There are two layers of flight restrictions in the Bay Area for Sunday that extend to an altitude of 18,000 feet: A “highly restricted” zone in a 10-mile radius around the stadium where nothing except for commercial aircraft and law enforcement may fly; and a lesser-restricted outer area between 10 and 32 miles where general aviation aircraft may fly if they have approved flight plans.

Aerobatic flights, gliders, drones and banner-towing planes are restricted in both areas, the FAA said.

In addition to the restrictions around Santa Clara, a two-mile-radius “no fly zone” around downtown San Francisco will be in effect from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday for altitudes up to 2,500 feet. Details on those restrictions may be found here.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.



Fan of the House: Welcome to the Super Bowl, where nothing is out of bounds

Super Bowl recipes

They’re crazy about the Panthers in Denver — North Carolina, that is